“The Ends of the World”

Peter Brannen

The ridiculously long subtitle of this book describes it well: “Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions”. This is a fascinating overview of the entire history of the earth, focusing on the several times most life was wiped out. Turns out there’s a lot more to extinction than the end of the dinosaurs. (I was struck by something I never knew: the carbon cycle is geologic as well as biologic.)

I liked the author’s approach; he writes both about mass extinctions and the study of mass extinctions, profiling some interesting scientists in the process and visiting some interesting sites. Brannen draws parallels to what might be the next mass extinction, the one caused by human-caused climate change, but he never lets it override his main topic.

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